As many as 94 percent of former inmates will be rearrested and up to 81 percent will wind up behind bars again, says a 20-year study by psychologist Greg Little that he tells the Memphis Commercial Appeal shows recidivism is far worse than statistics usually indicate. It is the only study done over such a long period of time, tracking inmates who were first jailed at the Memphis correction center between 1987 and 1991. Tennessee correction department studies show recidivism rates of 51 percent over three years; a national study estimates 65 percent.
Little and colleague Kenneth Robinson say the numbers keep going up over time, and they are higher because most studies don’t count re-incarcerations that took place in other states or in courts other than the original case. For instance, an inmate released on state probation or parole is seldom counted as a recidivist if later jailed for a federal crime. Little and Robinson, founders of Correctional Counseling Inc., were trying out a new treatment program in 1987 and began tracking inmates to compare their results with those of inmates who went through only standard counseling. Little and Robinson’s program, Moral Reconation Therapy, requires inmates to study their own decision-making. They say that ex-convicts who took part in their program had about 25 percent less recidivism than those who didn’t.